Between 1641 and 1652, the English killed over half a million Irish and forced another 300,000 into slavery in order to take over the country. Oliver Cromwells army and band of thieves completed the occupation and yet, for 300 years, Irish nationalism grew.
It grows even today as the occupation continues in the North of Ireland. Yet the Irish in Belfast and Derry are no longer firing rockets into British government offices. They are working to end the occupation through political means.
Hmmmm. Something to think about, no?
Back to the history lesson.
The Great Irish Famine wiped out a great many Irish people because the potato, which the Irish depended on as their main source of food, suffered a fungus. That was bad enough. Then the British exported all edible food back to Great Britain leaving the Irish to starve.
Millions of people died on the hills of Ireland, their mouths and throats stained green because they died eating grass.
During this time, millions more fled to America.
They came here seeking freedom, but instead lived in poor and unhealthy conditions that rivaled their homeland.
Anti-immigrant sentiment focused on the newly arrived Gaelic population. They were derided for sending money back home to Ireland seemed to some that was un-American. They were portrayed as fighting drunks who didn't deserve any civil rights.
American workers hated the Irish and employers posted No Irish Need Apply signs in windows and underneath job postings in the papers. They lived in squalor and their babies died from lack of food.
Again. So familiar, right?
But the Irish were stubborn and didn't go quietly into that good night.
Organizations like The Ancient Order of Hibernians encouraged the new Irish-Americans to stick together, maintaining their pride and dignity above all.
Irish immigrants used church, pubs, civic organizations, political involvement, intelligence, honor and humor to rise above their own sad conditions, encourage education in their children and come out on top.
That is what we celebrate today.
If a group of poor outsiders, outcasts and former slaves can make it in America so can you.
You just have to go about it the right way. By encouraging pride in your people and choosing love instead of hate. That's right. You have to love your children more than you hate intolerance and greed.
And it couldn't hurt to have a pint of Guinness and do a jig. If only for one day.